Jill (my agent) has just finished up the deal with Books on Tape for the unabridged edition of Fire Along the Sky, hopefully with the same reader (Kate Reading).

A well read audiobook is a thing of great beauty. Some sentences I have heard on audiotape were so perfect in tone and cadence that they have stayed with me for years. I especially like to have a really good audiobook waiting for a long drive. Some of the best I’ve listened to, books that lend themselves to this format and had excellent readers: Ordinary People (Guest), Possession (Byatt), Niccolo Rising (Dunnett), Wyoming Stories (Proulx), and in a collection of short stories by Stephen King, “Dolan’s Cadillac” read by Rob Lowe.

The wrong reader can turn a good book into a disaster. I tried to listen to one of Dennis Lehane’s mysteries on tape and found that the reader had no grasp of Angie’s personality at all; he read her like a simpering adolescent. I gave up after about fifteen minutes. There are other books I would like to listen to on tape, but they have never been recorded (Magician’s Assistant is one such example) or are impossible to find (Hearts and Bones, by Lawrence).

Right now I’m looking for the right audiobooks for two trips: when I go to teach at a conference in Gig Harbor at the end of this month, and then at the end of May, I’ll be driving down to the Bay area for a workshop. That’s a two day trip, and I can get through a big book.

4 Replies to “audiobooks”

  1. I don’t often remember to go rent or buy an audiobook before a car trip, but I did this week. (Good timing!) I got Audrey Niffenegger’s _The Time Traveler’s Wife_ and it’s just lovely. The book is told from two first-person POVs, so the audio version has two readers, and they’re both wonderful. There are a couple of lines that don’t quite sound right, as I suspect there are in every audiobook, but otherwise it’s really delightful — one of those dense, chewy books that you lie awake thinking about after you’re supposed to have gone to sleep.

    The audio is abridged, and when I got home last night I flipped through the paper book (which has been sitting on my shelf, neglected, for months) to find where I’d left off on the CD. Just that quick perusal led me to discover *how* abridged the book is; I noticed one scene where the secondary characters had been completely excised. I think I’ll keep reading forward from this point, but when I finish I’ll flip back to the beginning and read the parts I heard.

    The only other audiobooks lingering in my memory are the two I took on a drive to New Mexico last year, Janet Evanovich’s _Hot Six_ and something by David Sedaris. Sedaris reads his own work, and it’s just too deadpan to make a good audiobook. The Evanovich was hilarious, though. I hadn’t read any of the other Stephanie Plum mysteries, so I didn’t realize that the previous book had ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. When I got back from that trip I had to run to all the local bookstores and collect the entire series for more leisurely reading. The eighth and ninth book drag a bit, because by then the formula is getting pretty stale, but the first half dozen in the series are great light and fluffy fun.

  2. I have heard good things from other people too about The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’ll see if I can find it on tape, although I’ll be looking for the unabridged. After the mincemeat they made out of one of my books in abridging it (originally 300,000 words cut to 50,000 — tell me, what’s left?) I avoid unabridged at all costs.

    Also, I agree with you about the Stephanie Plum novels. I loved them until eight, and then they lost me.

  3. I don’t think they’ve done an unabridged version of this one yet.

    I was reading at lunch, and discovered that the audio has one serious advantage over the print version. In print, because there are two narrators, each section starts out by identifying who’s talking:

    Clare: ….

    Henry: ….

    After a few pages, you get used to this little annoyance. In the audio, they simply switch voices.

  4. “Imagining Argentina” as read by Mandy Patimkin. I had to pull off to the shoulder of the interstate to hear the ending, was crying too hard to drive. And then husband immediately hit REWIND to play the last chapter again.

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